Johnny Rzeznik of the Goo Goo Dolls

InterviewDecember 2, 2007SF Gate

By Aidin Vaziri

For everyone who thought we were just hearing the same Goo Goo Dolls song over and over all this time, the band has just helpfully released "Greatest Hits Volume One: The Singles." In case the title doesn't make it clear, the disc contains a dozen of the New York trio's biggest songs, many of which simply happen to be string-driven, midtempo epics with one-word titles ("Name," "Slide," "Iris"). With that cleared up, we spoke with front man Johnny Rzeznik, who is also a judge on the new Fox reality show "The Next Great American Band."

Q: This album is called "Greatest Hits Volume One." Are you expecting to write enough hits to fill a second volume anytime soon?

A: That was the record company. I don't know why they wanted to call it "Volume One." I think the idea was to put out a "Volume Two" with oddities and rare stuff, but the name wasn't my idea.

Q: Maybe they were just being optimistic.

A: God bless them. It's lasted a lot longer than I thought it would. You don't see a band that can stick around and can tour and all that anymore. We've been doing it seriously for about 13 years.

Q: It's only been 13 years? It feels like a lot longer than that.

A: We've been around for 20 years, but we were goofing off for the first four records.

Q: When you started the band, did you think your greatest hits would sound remotely like this?

A: We started the band when I was about 19 or 20. At that age, it would have been kind of hard to imagine a lot of the stuff that I've written. We were playing garage rock. I wanted to dash out three chords and scream. But if you do that for 20 years, what's the point?

Q: Some of your old fans might disagree.

A: The songs on this album are just a part of our band that the record company found easiest to market and sell. It's not a fair representation of who we are. If you go back and listen to the album "Name" was on, there were a lot of garage songs on it. It was just a part of that. Even our last album had some rock songs on it. I like ballads and always feel like I could write a few to balance things out.

Q: Do you like all these songs?

A: Do I like them? Why?

Q: Just in case you hate one, now would be a good time to admit it.

A: I just feel really lucky to have had some hits because we had a lot of time where we didn't have them. It's better to have a hit. You can ask anyone - U2, Green Day - and they'll tell you the same thing.

Q: Coming out of the whole '80s college radio thing, did you ever feel like a sellout?

A: Absolutely. It was one of those things like, it happened and you would be an idiot not to accept it and not have gratitude for it. I got a lot of s- from friends in bands and other musicians. People would write letters saying I was a sellout. But you have to brush that off.

Q: I think the general point of starting a band is to play in front of a lot of people, not just 20 of your friends in the back of a pizza restaurant.

A: There's nothing wrong with that either. There are times I want to do a side band and just play some gigs and have fun.

Q: Maybe you'll finally get a good review.

A: I've taken a lot of crap. That's just the way life is. There are going to be writers who like you and writers who despise you. I'm getting older, so I don't really give a s-.

Q: During the past 20 years, which singer have you been mistaken for most often: Simon Le Bon or Jon Bon Jovi?

A: Jon Bon Jovi, by far. Occasionally, when people are drunk, they think I'm Simon Le Bon. But when they're sober, it's always Jon Bon Jovi.

Q: I hope you use that to your full advantage.

A: I don't, but that would be hilarious: "Don't forget my name!"

To hear the Goo Goo Dolls' music, go to www.googoo